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How Can Your Charity or Foundation Safeguard Election Day?

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

Election results classify which organizations get tax breaks and how data can be collected and used, which directly informs your organization's ability to fulfil its mission. Yet, many nonprofits believe they are banned from participating in elections because they misunderstand federal law. While direct partisan activity is forbidden for charitable nonprofi­ts, voter registration and voter engagement activities are allowed. Be impartial not absent. Without participating in direct partisan activities, charities and foundations can take the following steps to increase their election day impact.


Aid in the completion of mail in ballots – More voters will be casting mail-in ballots this year than ever before. Organizations can help educate their communities on the proper steps taken to fill out and safely return mail-in ballots.

Enable safe travel to the polls – Particularly during a health crisis, safe travel to the polls is crucial. Foundations can donate ridesharing services to voters to transport them safely and freely to and from polling locations.

Donate protective supplies – All polling locations will require masks, barriers, and cleaning supplies to ensure a safe environment for voters and poll workers. Foundations that want to make grants directly to local election offices to help cover these costs should have written agreements in place to prevent future IRS inquiries.

Enlist volunteers to serve as poll workers – In past elections, most poll workers have been over the age of 60 and therefore at a higher risk when it comes to COVID-19. With high-risk volunteers staying home, many polling sites may be understaffed. Additional volunteers can alleviate stress by reducing long lines and wait times.

Give employees paid time off on election day – The nonprofit world comprises 14 percent of the US workforce. This means more than 20 million potential voters have ties to philanthropy. Giving paid time off to employees and encouraging grantees to do the same increases voter turnout ­­and expands access to democracy.


If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that our personal choices have global reach. This idea of singular voices uniting to create transformational change is a pillar of both philanthropy and democracy alike. Championing a more engaged and informed voting body ensures a high-functioning democracy that best serves its community.

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